The Last Newspaper Press Release
At the turn of the twentieth century, in the dawn of the machine age, newspapers were everywhere and wire services were feeding their hunger for the latest information. In their rush to embrace the future, the Cubists discovered a rich artistic medium: the newspaper. The Surrealists followed suit, and by World War I newspapers had become an accepted material integrated with painting, collage, and graphic design. Throughout the 1950s, artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns incorporated newspapers into their work not only for the iconic texture of the printed page, but also as a neural charge from the real world. By the 1960s’when this exhibition’s chronology begins’the use of the newspaper in fine art was no longer a novelty; it had become a standard source for both images and language.
The artists in this exhibition continue the exploration of the newspaper, but their focus lies in the ideological rather than the purely physical properties of the daily press. They use the newspaper as a platform to address issues of hierarchy, attribution, contextualization, and editorial bias. By disassembling and recontextualizing elements of the newspaper, such as the construction of graphics and text, the artists on view take charge of and remake the flow of information that defines our perception of the world. At its simplest, the artistic impulse that largely informs this exhibition is one of reaction and appropriation; the newspaper provides a stimulus and is itself incorporated into the final artwork.
It is in this context that a selection of collectives and agencies has partnered in this exhibition. If the artwork assembled in the galleries is dedicated to deconstructing the power and possibilities of the press, then the invited participants are engaged in finding new (and perhaps more holistic) ways of describing the world. Four partners are in residence on the museum’s third floor inhabiting a set of flexible offices designed by Blu Dot. The Center for Urban Pedagogy and StoryCorps are both prototyping new models for sharing and shaping discourse.
’The Last Newspaper’ is co-curated by Richard Flood and Benjamin Godsill.
With works by Wolfgang Tillmans, Hans Haacke, Robert Gober, Sarah Lucas, Pierre Bismuth, Luciano Fabro, Adrian Piper, Rirkrit Tiravanija amongst others.
Latitudes, the Barcelona-based curatorial office, and a diverse team lead by Joseph Grima and Kazys Varnelis/Netlab, are on site producing weekly newspapers.
‘THE LAST POST’ / ‘THE LAST GAZETTE’ / ‘THE LAST REGISTER’... is the evolving-titled 12-page free weekly newspaper and an incremental exhibition catalogue edited during a 10 week editorial residency by Latitudes. Produced from a micro-newsroom placed on the third floor of the museum the tabloids will be an archive in formation companioning The Last Newspaper’s exhibition, artworks and events, as well as being a platform for critical reflection on the wider agency of art and artists with respect to concerns about how information is produced, managed, recorded, re-ordered, and disseminated.
With kind permission from Latitudes we are reproducing two selected text from their catalogue/newspapers, written by The Last Newspaper London correspondent and ‘this is tomorrow’ features editor Lorena Muñoz-Alonso.
Visitor taking a picture of Sarah Lucas’ Fat, Forty and Flabulous (1990). Photocopy on paper. Copyright the artist. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Latitudes
SEX SPORT-TRAIT SARAH
Lorena Muñoz-Alonso on ‘The Last Newspaper’ work ‘Fat, Forty and Flab-ulous’ by British artist Sarah Lucas.
A seriously overweight woman pouts and poses across a newspaper’s double-page spread. She frolics, almost naked, apparently feeling sexy. ‘My borin’ hubby bleats about my weight - Now I want someone who loves feeling’ folds of flesh in the sack’, she is quoted as saying. The story of this woman being offered for sale by her husband was originally published on November 25, 1990 in The Sunday Sport, an infamous English tabloid that specialises in the bizarre, amusing readers with outrageous stories including alien abductions and freakish sexual revelations.
Fat, Forty and Flab-ulous (1990) is a simple photocopy enlargement of these pages, which also include an article ridiculing ‘Arty-Farty Students’ being offered degree courses in Madonna studies, as well as advertising for sex phone lines. Made by Sarah Lucas when she was a 28 year-old emerging artist in London - just two years after the seminal group exhibition Freeze, yet before her 1993 venture with Tracy Emin (The Shop) and perhaps her most renowned work, Au Naturel (1994) - it belongs to a series of works in which she uses British tabloids as her raw material. The act of photocopying the pages of a tabloid and placing the results in the gallery highlighted for the artist, the ‘hypocritical morality being served up daily to most people in this country’. It was also an indication of what was possible for a young woman artist with limited resources, making work with whatever she had at hand and striving to articulate society’s class and gender anxieties. Already then, Lucas had directed her gaze at Britain’s working class everyday life via her assemblages of found objects (newspapers, kebabs, oranges, mattresses, etc.) - works with a seemingly obnoxious sense of humour. Fat, Forty and Flab-ulous (1990) continues to speak, some twenty years later, about the ‘formless’ outlets of perversion and excess that swarm about in our social and cultural landscape, simultaneously suppressed and served up as mass entertainment.
What was most interesting about Lucas’ work when she first started to exhibit in London, at the artist-run space City Racing and the Saatchi Gallery, was that its irreverence and morality relentlessly challenged the established notions about the kind of art that was expected from a female artist. It wasn’t the explicit and obsessive use of genital symbols or the sexual innuendo that flooded her pieces what made her work risqué. It was its merciless gaze - and the absence of any clichéd feminist message - that made it exciting, funny and, most importantly, truly empowering. She was appropriating the brashness, sarcasm and macho attitudes of her masculine peers, yet without betraying her gender for a second.
Admittedly, Lucas’s apparently anti-intellectual approach doesn’t seem to lend itself too well to theory. Yet as with many of the artist’s subsequent works, Fat, Forty and Flab-ulous brings to mind the ideas explored by the psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva a decade earlier in The Powers of Horror (1980). Heavily influenced by the writings on subversion by Bataille and Lacan, this seminal essay uncovers what lies behind our fascination with the grotesque, the dirty and the obscure: things we are systematically meant to abhor. Lucas unravels such mechanisms and presses all their buttons.
IS THIS TRUE OR NOT’
‘The Last Observer’ London correspondent Lorena Muñoz-Alonso meets Wolfgang Tillmans, whose table top installation ‘Truth Study center’ is featured in ‘The Last Newspaper’.
This interview was published on the 10th of November 2010 in issue # 6 of THE LAST OBSERVER,
A door buzzer is activated on a busy street of East London on a rainy Saturday evening; I push and find myself in Between Bridges, the non-profit gallery space Wolfgang Tillmans opened in 2006 to show artists that ‘are overlooked in the London scene’. (The current exhibition is by Gerd Arntz, a fairly unknown German artist and activist of the Weimar era.) I climb the spiral staircase to the studio and Tillmans welcomes me upstairs and offers me tea. He is tired but talkative, having just returned from Nottingham, where he has been installing his works for the British Art Show 7. His studio is a huge open space, full of desks and wooden tables, where newspapers and magazines pile under the neon lights. ‘Last year at the Venice Biennale I had four table works. And I had a whole room table installation (Space, Food, Religion, 2010) at the Serpentine Gallery show. But having The Last Newspaper and the Nottingham show opening in the space of three weeks has reactivated the Truth Study center project in a very significant way’, he says while pointing to the build up of world-wide printed media that towers on every surface of the studio.
What is or are the origins of your Truth Study Center works’
The project started in 2005 with a show in London at Maureen Paley which coincided with the publication of my third book for Taschen, also titled Truth Study center. It was a contradiction, somehow, because the contents of the book had nothing to do with the tables. That first show included sixteen tables. Then, in 2006, I had a big mid’career survey in the U.S., a show that toured between Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico City which included a twenty-four-table installation. In 2007 I had a show at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover where I showed thirty tables, which then become part of the exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. So there have been two very big installations so far. The U.S. installation was altered from city to city; I was adding and adapting the contents depending on the context.
So the way you can work on the tables is quite quick and reactive’
Yes, pretty much. The tour was a year and a half long, and they were heady times in the American political arena, so it was interesting being able to incorporate all that to the work. There was a particular piece that was then published in The Guardian called ‘Ten easy steps for a fascist America’ by Naomi Wolf - a very heavy statement indeed. It was very striking and beautifully illustrated, so I made a table incorporating that on the spot. That table piece is again in The Last Newspaper exhibition. Americans don’t really like foreigners to criticise them. They are good at self-criticism, but the moment it’s a foreigner who does it, they can get defensive. But Wolf is American, so that couldn’t be accused of coming from European prejudices.
How did you begin the process of incorporating the table as a new element in the vocabulary of your practice’
It actually started in 1995 with a show at Portikus in Frankfurt where I used five flat cabinets to show images I had published in magazines. Also in the Turner Prize show in 2000 I used the same idea of laying out elements on a flat horizontal surface, so it was already settling within my practice then. While I was editing the Truth Study center book I came to this really obvious realisation that all my work happens on a table. A table provides a space for a loose arrangement, where things are laid out in a certain way, but can be easily rearranged. On a wall you have to pin or tape the stuff, but a table is more fluid. There is clarity and complete contingency at the same time.
And why did you start using newspapers as raw material in your work’
I had worked with found newspapers before, in the ‘Soldiers’ series (1999). I have to confess I am a bit of a newspaper junkie and have collected them since childhood. I often think that a day’s newspaper contains the essence of the whole world. But I guess that around 2002’2004, the years post 9/11, a clearer picture of the world we live in emerged - all the insanity that surrounded us - after what had seemed like the less politically charged 1990s. I was enraged and concerned and spending a lot of time reading media and thinking about all these different claims to the truth, ‘the big truth’ which was the ultimate justification behind all that violence and those wars. I realised that all the problems that the world faces right now arise from men claiming to possess absolute truths.
So hence the name’
Of course it would be very desirable to have a completely neutral ‘Truth Study center’, but that will never be possible. So even though it has this big title, it is not claiming to be delivering truth, but rather looking at all these different, opposed truths. But it is not at all saying that everything is relative or subjective. I do think there are certain truths that are not negotiable, that some events and attitudes are wrong, and I am straightforward about in the work, which I think is precisely what makes it interesting. It takes a moral stand on the one hand, but on the other is always aware of its absurdity and of its extreme limitations. So it presents all these issues, like the impact of AIDS denial in Africa or the question of the existence or not of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - the whole war came about from a single question: is this true or not’
Are the tables fixed in their arrangements and subjects’
The tables are, or can be, pieces in their own right. They do not always have to come in the same installations. But it’s the same as with a wall installation, when I think a grouping really works, I try to maintain it. But the working process is quite flexible and not set in stone.
So you color’photocopy all the newspaper that are on the tables, which is already a process of translation in itself’
Very much so. That is the essential part of the visual composition, because we have been talking a lot about content but of course if the table works were not interesting to look at, they wouldn’t have an artistic justification. I use the color photocopy because of aesthetic reasons, but also because the color copy is amazingly permanent, as opposed to newspaper. I couldn’t use the original newspaper cause it wouldn’t look good after a year. But media-wise there are also real things, like a lottery ticket, a bus ticket, a vegetable wrapper’
You have a very strong relationship to printed matter. You have even said: ‘Everything I do happens on paper’, which I think is a simple but very meaningful realisation, with a lot of implications’
I have a double interest in The Last Newspaper show. Not only do I use newspapers and magazines as material, but also my work is heavily featured in printed media and I use media as both generator and distributor of my work.
What are the main subjects of your tables in The Last Newspaper’
There is one table about soldiers and war, one about religion, another about the depiction of war, games and violence on the internet. I also have some images of airlines and the experience of flying and there is one about Americans’ attitudes to food. There are a lot of critical messages there, but you could find all of them in very mainstream publications. Information and criticality is there for everyone, which is also one of issues I want to highlight in this work.
Is this series your outlet for political expression’
There is definitely a bit of that. I use these works to make statements on subjects that I feel very strongly about but that I can’t or don’t want to tackle in my photographs. At the same time, though, the reason why I started to work with images from the very beginning was because I wanted to be involved with what was going on the world. Questions of taste or of beauty have always been politically charged for me. Do you find two men kissing disgusting or beautiful’ That is a question of aesthetics but also of politics. I’ve always had this very strong awareness that every freedom that I enjoy as a gay person has been hard fought for by many people before me, and that gave me a great sense of public responsibility. I think every person counts. I might be very traditional in that sense, but I really think it does matter.